Game Design From The Mascot Handbook
Ven: VR Adventure is a VR platformer with great visuals and tight controls. Ven is certainly inspired by the timeless mascots we know and love like Ratchet and Clank or Jak and Daxter. This can be a double-edged sword, as it makes it easy to draw comparisons to other adorable characters. However, with that comparison also comes the comparison to their respective games. Although character design and level design are entirely different. This may not work in Ven’s favor.
As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, making games in VR with a more animated, cartoonish design allows the developer to really polish it. Taking time to make shadows work properly is difficult. As a result, It shows a level of commitment for a developer to add details like shadows for the player’s hands/controllers. It’s details like this that I look for to show how much time and effort went into a game. It is not a definite form of measurement. However, it goes a long way when developers add that kind of detail. Also, the controls, in my experience, work well and allow perfect jump timing.
VR Action Platformer, Heavy on the Platformer
Ven is a great platformer, with some hiccups. Players unlock 12 levels on 3 worlds, collecting runes and Ven’s lost kin along the way. Blocking Ven’s paths is enemies and bosses. While the normal enemies are a bit lackluster, the boss fights make for an interesting challenge. As you make your way through the levels, at a certain point, the enemies get a bit repetitive. Ven doesn’t learn any new skills or techniques and there aren’t really puzzles to solve. As a result, the game feels more for children which, I suppose, is the target audience.
The actual gameplay is fun and the platforming really benefits from tight controls. The platforming is where the challenge really comes in. The runes you collect along the way actually increase your lives. Since enemy attacks and falls are instant death, extra lives are a necessity. The in-game counters on your wrists for the Eki (Ven’s people) and the runes are a great way to keep track and even notice if you missed one. So those who love 100 percenting games will have fun finding them all.
Sharp Turn Toward The End
As the levels progress towards the latter half of the game, there is a sharp difficulty spike. Hazards and super small platforms make for an almost frustrating challenge that comes seemingly out of nowhere. As I was hoping for a slight upturn in opposition, it’s almost like the game reacted with a passive-aggressive “I’ll show you!”. I appreciate a tough-as-nails game, even punishingly difficult games. And I’ve been a fan of super-hard platformers like Super Meat Boy and I Wanna Be The Guy. However, this is just a jarring turn.
It feels like the game wasn’t sure of the tone it wanted to go for. If the obstacles got gradually more difficult or if it was an expert-level platformer from the beginning, I think it would benefit from some balancing.
Ven: VR Adventure is a pretty good platformer. It looks great, Ven is a well-designed character, and even with some issues with difficulty spikes, it was a blast to play. It could have been a great platformer, and may still be in the future. At first, there were major complaints about the camera, and the folks at Monologic Games listened. They added a “free mode” for the camera that makes things much better. As I’ve written before, I appreciate it when a developer listens and follows through on feedback from the players.
What may keep Ven from the fame of similar characters like Ratchet or even Sonic is the comparison to similar games. Although his first outing wasn’t industry-changing, and it can be beaten in about 6 hours, I like Ven as a character. However, it is a welcome addition to this genre for VR and I would love to see what Monologic Games does in the future.